The Civil War on Film
by Peg A. Lamphier and Rosanne Welch
October 2020, 182pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-6662-3
$70, £54, 61€, A96
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-6663-0
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Civil War movies almost universally erase the past.

The Civil War on Film will inform high school and college readers interested in Civil War film history on issues that arise when film viewers confuse entertainment with historical accuracy.

The nation’s years of civil war were painful, destructive, and unpleasant. Yet war films tend to embrace mythologies that erase that historical reality, romanticizing the Civil War. The editors of this volume have little patience for any argument that implies race-based slavery isn’t an entirely repugnant economic, political, and cultural institution and that the people who fought to preserve slavery were fighting for a glorious and admirable cause.

To that end, The Civil War on Film will open with a timeline and introduction and then explore ten films across decades of cinema history in ten chapters, from Birth of a Nation, which debuted in 1915, to The Free State of Jones, which debuted one hundred and one years later. It will also analyze and critique the myriad of mythologies and ideologies which appear in American Civil War films, including Lost Cause ideation, Black Confederate fictions, Northern Aggression mythologies, and White Savior tropes. It will also suggest the way particular films mirror the time in which they were written and filmed. Further resources will close the volume.


  • Makes clear that depictions of the Civil War on film are often mythologized
  • Analyzes films in a manner that shows students the historical context in which the films were made and viewed
  • Goes beyond just synopses and historical facts, helping students to develop critical thinking skills
  • Stimulates debate over the various ways the war was interpreted and experienced
Peg A. Lamphier, PhD, teaches interdisciplinary humanities at California State Polytechnic University and American Women's History at Mount San Antonio College. Lamphier wrote Kate Chase and William Sprague: Politics and Gender in a Civil Wary Marriage (2003), and co-edited Spur Up Your Pegasus: Family Letters of Salmon, Kate and Nettie Chase (2009). With Rosanne Welch she edited Women in American History: A Social, Political, and Cultural Encyclopedia and Document Collection (ABC-CLIO, 2016) and Technical Innovation in American History: An Encyclopedia of Science and Technology (ABC-CLIO, 2019). She writes Civil War mystery novels, including The Lincoln Special (2017), The Great Show (2017), Rebel Belles (2018), and Iron Widow (2019).

Rosanne Welch, PhD, executive director of Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting, wrote for Beverly Hills 90210, Picket Fences, ABC NEWS: Nightline, and Touched by an Angel. Welch edited When Women Wrote Hollywood (2018), runner up for the Susan Koppelman feminist studies award; co-edited Women in American History: A Social, Political, and Cultural Encyclopedia and Document Collection, named to Outstanding References Sources List and Best Historical Materials (2018). She wrote Why The Monkees Matter: Teenagers, Television and American Popular Culture (2016). Welch is Book Reviews editor for Journal of Screenwriting; and on the Editorial Boards of Written By magazine and California History Journal.


"A must-have for public and college libraries, Lamphier and Welch’s work deserves a key place in film history. "—Booklist, Starred Review, January 1, 2021

"Recommended. All readers."—Choice, July 1, 2021

Hollywood History

Just exactly how accurate are Hollywood's film and television portrayals of U.S. history? What do these portrayals tell us, not only about the events they depict, but also the time in which they were made? Each volume in this unique reference series is devoted to a single topic or key theme in U.S. history, examining approximately 10 major motion pictures or television productions. Substantial essays summarize each film, provide a historical background of the event or period it depicts, and explain how accurate the film’s depiction is, while also analyzing the cultural context in which the film was made.
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